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Union Leaders Request Meeting With Lawmakers

Cambodian garment workers shout slogans during a gathering to mark May Day celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, file photo.

As the National Assembly prepares to debate a contentious draft law to regulate unions, labor leaders say they want to meet with lawmakers and express their concerns.

Unions fear the new law will make it difficult to represent workers in an already restive sector, where low pay and poor working conditions are a constant source of strife. Some 1,000 unions are active for workers rights, in a sector that employs up to 700,000 people.

Union leaders say they want some of the most restrictive provisions in the draft law struck before it is passed. For example, under the draft law, demonstrations can only legally take place with 51 percent of a factory’s workers present.

Union leaders have asked for a Dec. 7 meeting with National Assembly members. “Based on our general review made on the draft law, it has the intention to restrict rights of the employees in implementing their union rights, which have improved working conditions and the livelihood of workers in Cambodia,” the request says.

Assembly officials were not immediately available for comment.

Ou Chanrith, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and vice chairman of the legislative committee, said that he was not aware of the committee receiving the proposal. But he said Rescue Party officials plan to meet with union leaders in the near future.